US concerned by Israel's new West Bank restrictions for foreigners

Critics have warned that the new Israeli rules regarding West Bank visitors limit foreign engagement with Palestinian society.

 Israeli security forces guard as Palestinians make their way through an Israeli checkpoint to attend Friday prayer of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, April 22, 2022. (photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)
Israeli security forces guard as Palestinians make their way through an Israeli checkpoint to attend Friday prayer of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, April 22, 2022.
(photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)

The Biden administration is "concerned" by new Israeli restrictions on foreign visits to Palestinians in the West Bank, which are set to take effect on Thursday, 

It has in the past spoken of the 90-pages of regulations that replace on Thursday what had been a vague three-page set of rules as "onerous." 

On Tuesday, US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said that "we, of course, remain concerned about potential adverse impacts that some of these procedures could have on civil society, on tourism, on health care facilities, on academic institutions." 

He added that the Biden administration remained "engaged" with Israel on this issue.

Israel has made some changes to the regulations which streamline the process, thereby making it easier in some situations, while creating burdensome bureaucracy in others with strict timelines for visits that have critics warning that the rules limit foreign engagement with Palestinian society.

 German tourists look at a mural on the Israeli barrier in Bethlehem, in the West Bank June 20, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA) German tourists look at a mural on the Israeli barrier in Bethlehem, in the West Bank June 20, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/MUSSA QAWASMA)

Jessica Montel, who is the executive director of the Israeli left-wing NGO HaMoked warned on Wednesday that the 'new procedure will make it impossible for thousands of families to live together in the West Bank." She explained that the new rules "will impose additional difficulties on Palestinian universities and on institutions that rely on foreign volunteers. 

The regulations for example limit foreign students to a one-year period of consecutive study in Palestinian academic institutions such as universities. 

In some instances, exemptions can be made for a 27-month period. But "the total period of residence must not exceed a cumulative four years for any given degree, or a cumulative five years for a doctorate or post-doctorate" the regulations state.

The regulations are similar for lecturers, doctors and businesspeople. 

Montell said that the "Israeli military has the authority to impose restrictions necessary for security, but these sweeping restrictions seem to have no connection to legitimate security needs, and Israeli authorities have provided no explanation at all to justify them."

Israel has said that the regulations will be in place for two years before a decision will be made to make them permanent. It has added that changes can be made in that period.